While LeBron James has always been a money making machine for himself, his teams, the NBA and the companies that endorse him, coming back “home” to the Cleveland Cavaliers has been extremely profitable, even more than usual.
Nike’s LeBron signature model generated $340 million over a 12-month period since announcing his return to the Cavaliers, the team he played from since 2003 (when he was drafted) until 2010, when he made his very public and perception-changing ‘decision’ to join the Miami Heat. Four NBA Finals and two championships later, he made the choice of going back to Ohio, where he grew up (Akron).
James is one of those athletes that don’t need a big market to thrive. He’s just that good, that interesting, popular and hated at the same time. The NBA Finals have been so big over the last five years because James has been in them. Even with smaller markets getting involved. With all due respect to the champions, the Golden State Warriors, the story for a lot of the viewers and followers was James trying to do it on his own.
Nike don’t influence his career decisions, and even if they do, they’ll never admit it. Phil Knight, the company chairman, didn’t exactly shed a tear when James decided it’s time to pack it up in South Beach and head back to Cleveland. Nike ran a very successful “Together” campaign based on his return.
Yeah, we don’t suggest he goes any place, but I thought it was a great story…. He came back because he was coming home. I think that’s a great story any time.
James was on the losing side in the NBA Finals for a third time. But it doesn’t make him any less marketable or “out there” for his products to sell. Winning or losing has nothing to do with it sometimes, although James being this good certainly helps.